Dear HR tech vendor…it’s about your free offer

Time is still money and the HR decision maker you’re trying to sell to? They’re broke right now.

Everyone wants a piece of the pie

HR tech is big business, especially cloud-based platforms, and anyone who’s anyone has a tech solution to solve a people problem. As a result, the global addressable market It’s a booming market, worth an estimated $148 billion in total addressable market size, according to CBI Insights. So it makes sense that prior to COVID-19, anyone who is anyone with an idea, some developer knowhow and a bit of knowledge about HR (ideally) had a HR tech solution that could solve a myriad of people problems.

But, with the impending recession it will be one of the biggest challenges HR teams have ever faced. In the UK in particular, we are dealing with the impact of the lockdown with hundreds of major brands being adversely affected, not to mention the number of smaller businesses who will struggle to stay afloat, even with the government intervention.

So now is not the time to be trying to offer your HR tech product for free. I know some of you may be very well intentioned, that free offer, isn’t really free is it? Be honest.

Don’t do it! Here’s why you shouldn’t offer your HR tech stack for free

  1. HR teams do not have the time to understand and bring in new tech. Neither do the CTOs and IT departments. Right now, many of them are dealing with a world of shit.
  2. It takes engagement with multiple stakeholders, just to get to a decision phase, and that doesn’t change just because the offer is free.
  3. The cost of using your product may be free but the time it will take you to explain to them, to organise the contracts, build the implementation plan, find an internal sponsor, liaise with the IT team, arrange for testing and trialing, building and launching an employee communication plan, all of that takes time. A lot of time. And time, that let’s be honest, you’ve built into your business model — either as a subscription fee or a one-off implementation fee.
  4. Think of employees and what many of them are going through right now. Some are fearful they are about to lose their jobs, others worried about how they will balance home and work responsibilities and almost all will be worried about the health and safety of themselves and their loved ones. If they were to receive a memo about the implementation of a new HR tech stack, what do you think they would say? What would you see, if you were in their shoes?

We’re all in the same boat

You’re seeing contracts dry up, potential leads fizzle out and you are concerned about the renewal rates of existing clients and in some cases, panicking about whether those clients can even afford to pay you.

If you’re a new HR tech start up that has just recently received funding, you are under a different set of pressures because if you’ve hired, you may need to rescind offers and lay off your team members or you’re desperately trying to think about other ways to innovate or pivot your current offering, without it looking like a shameless attempt at profiteering from COVID-19.

I really do feel your pain as half of my business was about helping HR tech startups and scaleups like you to engage and impress HR decision-makers so you were guaranteed a second meeting, advise you on your content and marketing plans and facilitate warm introductions. That part of my business is now dormant for the foreseeable future.

Try this instead

  1. Forget your product for a moment. What is that you really care about? Why did you come up with the idea to create a HR tech solution — what was the specific problem you recognised and were trying to solve?
  2. What aspects of your product or the service you provided, really wowed your clients? What data can you draw on? What specific insights have you collated?
  3. Take the answers to point one and two and use that as a starting point, either just yourself or with your extended team, to think about how you can pivot?
  4. Or, is there a different free service that you can provide that would genuinely help HR teams and where there would be clear benefits for them and their employees. Think hard about this. It’s not about forcing a round peg into a square hole.
  5. If after this strategic and personal soul-searching, you believe that your product would be helpful, challenge your dev team to make it as frictionless as possible. Make it simple. Think Amazon 1-click. And if a HR client doesn’t know you don’t sell to them. They don’t have the time to get to know you. Save your energy and talk only to those who you already have a warm relationship with.

Waiting for the light at the end of the tunnel

There’s no one who isn’t waiting with bated breath for this horrific pandemic to be over and we have no idea what our new normal is going to look like. You may be lucky and be a winner, or you may not and it’s not necessarily down to your product not being good enough.

We are all the victims of timing and HR decision-makers will also be disappointed that they may be unable to secure the budget to bring in new exciting technology.

Be empathetic and compassionate and even if you’re under pressure from those around, stay true to your values. Don’t compromise now, just to secure a client. We HR folk have long memories. And it’s not worth your reputation.

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